05 march 2016 – james joyce and summer




05 March 2016

I’m reading ‘The Portrait of the Artist as a

Young Man’ (James Joyce) and I’m
enjoying it in the way that I enjoy all
modernism – that ream, spiel,
endless, unexpected rhythm of the
subconscious which entirely
absorbs the mind – truly a step into
someone else’s mind – the connections
their brain makes with the smell of
pipe tobacco and soap – who they think of
at 2am. I’ve loved, or was moved by,
this passage

‘Whenever the car drew up before a
house he waited to catch a glimpse of a
well scrubbed kitchen or of a softly
lighted hall and to see how the servant
would hold the jug and how she would
close the door. He thought it should
be a pleasant life enough, driving along
the roads every evening to
deliver milk, if he had warm gloves and
a fat bag of gingernuts in his pocket to
eat from.’
At the time, of this I wrote:
‘What is the appeal of a simple
life? Without complexities, with ease.
Why is it that simplicity settles hearts
and softens nerves? There is so much
time for the complicated loves, the dramatic
narratives when the dullest part of life is
softest, simplest, stunning.’
Please don’t hold me to all of that. I
wrote it in a rush in the school study room –
trying to scribble some semblance of
the vast trough of words that came to
mind on this passage – and I am going
to try and make better sense of it now.
I think this passage (God, I hate how this
began – I think – as if this is a
school essay) stood out to me because
now, older than Stephen at this moment in
the novel – I am struggling with how to
professionally pass my days. The world
seems a vast arena – with so many roles to
play both in the seats, and out

and I’ve no idea which member of the
audience or performance I’d like to be.

Pushed, encouraged, guided into the ‘open’
and ‘supportive’, ‘eternal’, ‘everlasting’ arms of
a degree or of ‘formal education’ – I
am being pushed into complexity. Into –
detail?  Into the outer mesh of life when,
there is perhaps, at the right time of day, the right
day in the season, far more beauty, admiration,
enchantment with those professions shrouded
in simplicity. A milkman. Dawn and dusk.
A necessity. Monotonous, maybe, but – like
Stephen thinks, ‘it should be a pleasant life enough’
a distraction maybe from the passion you have to,
and i say have to, because humans are creatures
du passion and if we do not offload it into a
profession, then this is where we are left without
option, and are forced to leave it in our homes, so
distracted from the passion that you have to
unleash at home – be it
in love, in folly, in hobby, in your every
breath and movement – it must be somewhat
humane, somewhat, in a time of fast paced
life, of striving for amelioration and
job complexity, a job of salvation or of
advancement of the human race, a job with
‘meaning’ – it must be somewhat ambiguous,
enigmatic, regressive, to be a milkman with a
passionate homelife. And if that does not explain it –
close your eyes, think of a street in your hometown – think of
dusk (or dawn if that’s the twin you’re better acquainted
with), think of a van (like a golf cart but maybe
bigger), think of a trailer full of glass milk bottles
with the foil tops, think of summer, of the
prickly breeze mocking the hot air, think of that
afterlight glow, the amber, the amethyst of
oncoming eve, think of birdcalls, sleepy, jittery,
think of midges flying about, of sporadical
traffic, think of children laughing, adults chattering,
think of summer evenings – and think of home –
whatever home you have – think of home on
a good day, maybe the home you left
that morning when the light seemed to exist in
abundance – and summer seemed a red carpet
rolled off the edge of the earth, ad infinitum.
Think of that montage of senses, of bumblebees
and cut grass. Think of that stopmotion memory –
think of delivering milk – think of how
settled your heart must be, how soft your
nerves will be – think of that and tell me

it’s not a pleasant life enough.


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